Paul Revere Still Rides… Boston Part 2

This sculpture of Paul Revere

This sculpture of Paul Revere outside of the Old North Church in Boston commemorates Revere’s ride on April 18, 1875 to warn Colonials that General Thomas Gage’s troops were on their way to Lexington and Concord.

 

Listen my children and you shall hear /Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, /It was on the 18th of April, in Seventy five, /Hardly a man is now alive/ Who remembers that famous day and year. —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

By 1860, when these lines were penned, very few people indeed would have remembered the ride, so Longfellow was free to report the facts as he saw them, even though they were a bit “alternative.” As a dedicated abolitionist, he wanted to use his poem to alert the citizens to prepare for the impending struggles ahead in holding the nation together and in freeing the slaves, as well as recognize Revere’s heroism.  The last lines of the poem urged:

In the hour of darkness and peril and need, /The people will waken and listen to hear /The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed, /And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

 I can’t help but wonder if the 150,000 people who gathered on Boston Commons Saturday as part of the Women’s March to protest Donald Trump’s treatment of women and policies on healthcare, the environment and education hadn’t heard echoes of the hurrying hoof-beats. 

When Peggy and I walked across the Boston Commons three weeks ago, it was a quiet day except for fat squirrels wanting to become fatter. Back in 1775 when Paul Revere made his mad dash, British troops were camped out here. On Saturday, an estimated 150,000 gathered between here and the Massachusetts Statehouse for the Women's March. I thought the woman's statue was appropriate for this photo.

When Peggy and I walked across the Boston Commons a few weeks ago (shown above with the Massachusetts Statehouse), it was a quiet day except for fat squirrels wanting to become fatter. Back in 1775, British troops were camped out on the Commons. On Saturday, an estimated 150,000 people gathered here for the Women’s March.

A fat squirrel.

A fat squirrel occupies the Commons much more successfully than the British soldiers who suffered from a lack of food.

Longfellow was inspired to write the poem the day after climbing the steeple of the Old North Church where lanterns were hung to warn that British soldiers were moving toward Lexington and Concord.

Steeple of the Old North Church in Boston, Massachusetts that played an important role in the beginning of the Revolutionary War.

The Old North Church steeple where two lanterns were hung to warn that General Gage’s Redcoats were on the move by sea. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

The Old North Church in Boston, Massachusetts.

A view of the back of the Old North Church. Peggy and I visited on a grey day when we experienced both rain and snow. And it was even colder than it looks!

Front view of Old North Church in Boston, Massachusetts.

A front view of the Old North Church.

Looking toward the back of the Old North Church.

Looking toward the back of the Old North Church. The stairs leading up to the steeple where the lanterns were displayed is behind the organ pipes.

Organ pipes at Old North Church in Boston.

A close up of the organ pipes. I am assuming the angel is Gabriel.

Looking across box pews toward the altar at the Old North Church in Boston.

Looking toward the front of the church. In 1775 the church was Anglican. Today it is Episcopalian, the American equivalent. Note the interesting box pews.

Peggy sits in one of the pews holding a hymnal. Today, the pews are based on first come-first serve. But in 1775, the pews were 'owned' by their occupants and passed down through families. One of the guides told us that the cost for one the pews was the equivalent of what a middle class family might earn in a year today. Not cheap.

Peggy sits in one of the pews holding a hymnal. Today, the pews are based on first come-first serve. But in 1775, the pews were ‘owned’ by their occupants and passed down through families. One of the guides told us that the cost for a pew was the equivalent of what a middle class family might earn in a year today. Not cheap.

On the 200th anniversary of Paul Revere's ride, President Gerald Ford hung a third lantern in the Old North Church to inspire hope, peace and prosperity.

On the 200th anniversary of Paul Revere’s ride, President Gerald Ford hung a third lantern in the Old North Church to inspire hope, peace and prosperity.

The British had two objectives: one to arrest the Colonial leaders, John Hancock and John Adams, who were in Lexington at the time— and two, to go on to Concord and seize gunpowder that the Colonialists were storing in case the disagreement with Britain came down to war. Thomas Gage, the commanding general of the British forces in Boston, had been very secretive about his plans, but not secretive enough.

The plans were discovered, two lanterns were hung in the Old North Church, and Revere along with two other riders set out on their midnight rides. Hancock and Adams escaped and hundreds of militia from surrounding towns, known as Minute Men for their readiness to fight on a moment’s notice, grabbed their muskets and streamed toward Lexington and Concord. A shot was fired in Lexington and a battle ensued. It is still debated whether the British or the Colonialists fired first.

While the British won the first round, they marched on to Concord where they were met by a much larger group of Minute Men. Another battle started and the British decided it was time to return to Boston. Somewhat in disarray, the British troops hurried along the road as the ‘rebels’ took potshots at them in their hasty retreat. The Minute Men had proven that they could effectively fight against the much better trained British troops.

While the Declaration of Independence was still a year off, the Revolutionary War was underway.

Another view of Paul Revere on his ride to warn that the Redcoats were coming.

Another view of Paul Revere on his ride to warn that the Redcoats were coming.

Paul Revere's home on the Freedom Trail in Boston, Massachusetts.

Paul Revere’s home, snuggled up to a taller building, is a few blocks away from the Old North Church. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Another view of Revere's home.

Another view of Revere’s home. Revere was a noted silversmith of his time and a successful businessman.

The poem that made Revere a household name for generations of Americans following its publishing date in 1861.

The poem that made Revere a household name for generations of Americans.

Paul Revere's tombstone in the Granary Graveyard, a place where will visit in our blog next week.

Paul Revere’s tombstone in the Granary Graveyard, a place we will visit in our blog next week.

NEXT BLOGS:

Wednesday: Back to the Sierra Trek for the route preview, heart-break, a trip to Canada, and 20 cases of Ham Cheddarton.

Friday: The first 2017 post on Burning Man. Part one of a series of photographic essays selected from several thousand photos Peggy, I and several friends have taken at the event since 2004.

Three Hundred Cups of Tea and The Toughest Job… More Tales from West Africa

Three Hundred Cups of Tea and the Toughest Job by Asifa Kanji and David Drury

 

Peggy, who is President of Friends of the Ruch Library, came home from a Jackson County Library meeting this summer and told me that two Returned Peace Corps Volunteers had just given a program at the Ashland Library on a book they’d written about their experience in Mali, West Africa. She also had their names, David Drury and Asifa Kanji, and contact information.

Given the book I’d written about my Peace Corps adventures in Liberia, it caught my attention.  I called immediately and reached David. Asifa was off in Hawaii attending to business. Within a few minutes we had a picnic set up for Lithia Park in Ashland. We’d bring the wine. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with Ashland, it’s the first town you come to when following I-5 north from California into Oregon. The community is renowned for its Shakespeare Festival.)

By the end of lunch, we were on our way to becoming friends and had exchanged books. Asifa and David’s books, Three Hundred Cups of Tea and The Toughest Job, are combined under one cover. My book is The Bush Devil Ate Sam. 

I immediately took their books home and begin reading them. I was fascinated. Both are good writers, have a great sense of humor, and have interesting stories to tell.

I joined the Peace Corps when I was 22, right after I graduated from UC Berkeley in 1965. David and Asifa joined almost 50 years later in 2012 when David was 60 and Asifa 57. They had to have vastly different experiences from mine, I thought. And yes, there were differences. I certainly didn’t have a cell phone or access to the Internet. They still weren’t invented. And David worked in a cybercafe! In 1965, I would have been running to the dictionary for a definition— and not finding it.

But in the end, I was more impressed by the similarities of our experiences than the differences. Working in an impoverished third world country while struggling to accomplish something in a totally different culture is slow arduous work, and often unsuccessful. Both of their book titles reflected this. Asifa’s 300 cups of tea was the number of cups you had to drink with someone to get their attention. Patience and, I might add, a strong bladder were called for. David’s book got right to the point; it was the toughest job he had ever had.

If you want a good tale that will transport you into another world with both compassion and humor, I recommend David and Asifa’s book. It’s available here on Amazon.

The Bush Devil Ate Sam, Tree Hundred Cups of Tea, and the Toughest Job: Books on Peace Corps Experiences in West Africa

If you are among my blog followers in Southern Oregon, Asifa, David and I will be doing a program featuring tales from West Africa on this coming Saturday, January 20 at the Ruch Library from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. You are invited! The address for the library is 7919 Highway 238 (one block past the Upper Applegate River intersection if you are coming in from Jacksonville on 238).

From An Ex-Ice Hockey Player, to a Ballerina, to a Witch: Meet the Sierra Trek Participants

I didn't have a clue what to expect when we started recruiting for the first Sierra Trek. What I quickly found out was that people from all ages and walks of life wanted to hike across the mountains. What I learned one 30 years was that three things determined the success of the program: The people, the challenge, and the beautiful country. That participants were raising money for a good cause was a plus. This is Darth Cathy, who joined us on the 4th year, I believe. Actually Cathy is wearing a a dark mosquito net. Her career was that of an IRS agent.

I didn’t have a clue what to expect when we started recruiting for the first Sierra Trek. What I quickly found out was that people from all ages and walks of life wanted to hike across the mountains. This is “Darth” Cathy (grin), who joined us on the 4th year. Actually Cathy is wearing a dark mosquito net. Her career (now retired) was that of an IRS agent.

 

In my last blog about the Sierra Trek, I persuaded my Board of Directors to support the concept. I then hired Steve to help put the event together and we had located a 100-mile route across the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It was the beginning of July and the Trek was to take place in the mid-August. The clock was ticking.

A note about today’s photos: As I mentioned previously, the photos for this series on the first Sierra Trek are all taken from later treks. Today’s photos are from the mountains west of Lake Tahoe in the Granite Chief and Desolation Wilderness areas.

 

Our first challenge was whether we could recruit participants. Were there people in the Sacramento area crazy enough to go on a nine-day, 100-mile backpack trip up and over mountains?

The answer was a resounding yes. Steve was able to get an article published in the Sacramento Bee. All participants had to do was raise funds for the Lung Association. Naively, we failed to suggest experience would be valuable, set an age limit, or ask for a minimum amount of pledges. People came out of the proverbial woodwork! We held an orientation session at the Sacramento Municipal Utility District auditorium with close to 100 people in attendance.

Among them were a 16-year old ballerina with legs of steel and a 250-pound, fifty-four year old ex-ice hockey player who had also had a career defusing bombs in South America. At the time, he was dodging the IRS. Four little 11-year old boys came as inseparable buddies and I wondered what kind of baby-sitting service their parents assumed we were providing. There was busty Sunshine who had a skinny partner named Bilbo. (Decades before the movie trilogy, people were already entranced with Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. I was.) Lovely Lisa was 19 years old and a perfect 10.

Another woman, who claimed to be a witch, informed me, “I’ll be over to bite you around midnight on the Trek.” And no, she never came over to bite me; but had I encouraged it, I am pretty sure it could have been arranged. We had a 40-year-old teacher from Auburn who would never sit down during the day because she claimed she would never get up, and a 45-year-old teacher from Davis who claimed he could carry his weight in booze, and probably did. There was also a young man named Dan with flaming red hair who wore moccasins, juggled and played a harmonica as he walked down the trail.

And there was Orvis.

Three weeks before the Trek, an elderly, white-haired gent with a long flowing beard and twinkling eyes walked into my office and announced he wanted to go. His name was Orvis Agee. He was 70 years old and a carpenter. He couldn’t have weighed over 100 pounds fully dressed and soaking wet. I made a snap decision.

“Uh,” I said searching for a gentle way of telling him I thought he might be too old for the Trek, “this is going to be a very difficult trip. Do you have any backpacking experience?”

“Well,” he announced proudly, “I went on a 50 mile trip with the Boy Scouts last year.” That was 20 miles farther than I had ever backpacked. “And,” he added as he warmed to the subject, “I’ve climbed Mt. Shasta several times since I turned 60.” I had never climbed Mt. Shasta or any other mountain of note. Mainly over the past ten years I had been sitting around becoming chubby.

“Welcome to the Sierra Trek,” I eked out. What else could I say? (Seventeen years later at age 87, Orvis would do his last Trek with me. It was Peggy’s first trek. He had personally raised the Lung Association well over $100,000.)

People from all walks of life joined our treks over the years. Many would come again and again. Nancy Pape, who is an interior decorator, first joined us in 1977. 40 years later, she still calls me each year to see if I am going on a backpacking trip she can join. She's family.

People from all walks of life joined our treks over the years. Many would come again and again. Nancy Pape, who is an interior decorator, first joined us in 1977. 40 years later, she still calls me each year to see if I am going on a backpacking trip she can join. On this particular trip she took a hand full of pills and choked on them. Another long-term trekker, Ken Lake, gave her the Heimlich Maneuver and quite possibly saved her life.

Here's Ken, enjoying a quiet moment. Peggy's sister, Jane, and I hired Ken to run our first 500 mile bike trek in 1977 and help out with programs. Prior to going to college, he had been a helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War. He, along with his wife Leslie, are also part of our extended family.

Here’s Ken, enjoying a quiet moment. Peggy’s sister, Jane, and I hired Ken to run our first 500 mile bike trek in 1977 and help out with programs. Prior to going to college, he had been a helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War.

Bill Braun, shown here with Peggy, is one of my all time favorite trek characters. Bill's job was that of chief mechanic on the huge container ships. He, along with Cathy, often helped Orvis down the trail in his later years, once leading him by hand when he couldn't see because of cataracts! Bill and Cathy working together to help Orvis would eventually lead them to get married.

Bill Braun, shown here with Peggy, is one of my all time favorite trek characters. Bill’s job was that of chief mechanic on huge container ships. He, along with Cathy, often helped Orvis down the trail in his later years, once leading him by hand when he couldn’t see because of cataracts! Their work together in helping Orvis would eventually lead them to get married.

Speaking of family, this is our daughter Tasha standing with me in the Desolation Wilderness next to a trail sign. She went on several treks with us.

Speaking of family, this is our daughter Tasha standing with me in the Desolation Wilderness next to a trail sign. She went on several treks with us. And no, she isn’t seven feet tall. She was standing on a rock.

And our son, Tony. When he graduated from Annapolis, I promised to take him on a 100 mile trip including climbing Mt. Whitney. He jumped at the opportunity.

And our son, Tony. When he graduated from Annapolis, I promised to take him on a 100 mile trip including climbing Mt. Whitney. He jumped at the opportunity.

As the Trekkers rolled in, Steve and I focused our energies on the next task. What were we going to feed the mob that we would apparently be leading through the mountains? Breakfast and lunch could be pulled off the shelves in the local grocery stores. Dinner was the problem. Freeze dried food was in its early stages of development and somewhat expensive for my budget.

There was another possibility. Lipton had a lightweight, off-the-shelf dinner, which was inexpensive and sold through grocery stores. The meals came in four flavors and featured tiny amounts of turkey, chicken, beef and ham with gourmet names attached. I bought all four and Jo and I did a taste test. Except for the Ham Chadderton, they were actually decent. The Chadderton resembled something a bird might regurgitate and tasted slightly worse. “What the heck,” I thought, “three out of four isn’t bad.”

Steve suggested that he call Lipton’s headquarters back east and see if we could get the food donated. We would offer to ‘test market’ and publicize their food for the growing backpacking market. Lipton bought it. We had our dinners, and Steve had earned his $16 for the day.

We also wanted a backpacking store as a sponsor. An outdoor store would provide some much-needed credibility and be a valuable source of advice and recruits. I did a scientific search by looking in the Yellow Pages and picking out the first store I came to, Alpine West. It was only a few blocks away at 10th and R Street so I walked over. A bushy bearded, hippie-like character in his mid-twenties was behind the cash register.

“Excuse me,” I asked, “is the owner or manager in?”

“I am the owner,” was the somewhat terse reply. “What can I do for you?”

I did a quick regrouping, “Hi, my name is Curt Mekemson and I am the Executive Director of the local Lung Association,” I said as I offered my hand. He gave me a ‘what donation are you about to ask for look’ but took my hand and introduced himself as Tom Lovering. I explained what we were going to do.

“That’s insane,” Tom had replied with an assuredness that would have intimidated Attila the Hun. It certainly intimidated me. What do you say when the expert you are seeking advice from tells you flat-out that the idea you are already implementing is crazy.

“Um, it’s been nice chatting with you.” Or, “I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t tell anyone.”

I opted for the “Why do you say that?” wanting to know how far out on the limb I had crawled. I quickly learned that the event we were planning was the equivalent of the Bataan Death March. People might do it but they were going to be miserable and say nasty things about the Lung Association and me for the rest of their lives.

After having said all of that, Tom agreed to sponsor and promote the Trek through his store. I left feeling a little confused. Did he want people to say nasty things about him and Alpine West?

Tom and I would go on to having numerous adventures. And he remained as wild as ever. Here is on a trip down the Colorado River that Peggy and I went on with him a few years ago.

Tom and I would go on to having numerous adventures. And he has remained as wild as ever. Here he is on a trip he led down the Colorado River that Peggy and I went on with him a few years ago.

Back at Lungland, the clock was ticking. The Trek was three weeks away and then two. It was time to go out and preview the route. Given Tom’s pessimistic assessment of our adventure, Steve and I felt the preview was all the more critical. We agreed to a long weekend where each of us would hike three days of the route. The final three days were saved for the following weekend just before the Trek. Could we plan things any tighter? There was no room for error…

We took our second trek south through the Desolation Wilderness, which is just south of the Granite Chief Wilderness and both west of Lake Tahoe. Here I am checking out the terrain.

We took our second trek south through the Desolation Wilderness, which is just south of the Granite Chief Wilderness and both west of Lake Tahoe. Here I am checking out the terrain.

And here's Peggy hiking down one of the trails in the Granite Chief Wilderness. The pack looks almost as big as she is.

And here’s Peggy hiking down one of the trails in the Granite Chief Wilderness. The pack looks almost as big as she is.

There is a series of four small lakes in the Desolation Wilderness called the 4 Q Lakes because of their shape. I took this reflection shot from my favorite camp location.

There is a series of four small lakes in the Desolation Wilderness called the 4 Q Lakes because of their shape. I took this reflection shot from my favorite camp location.

Flipped 90 degrees, it reminded me of an African mask.

Flipped 90 degrees, it reminded me of an African mask.

One of my favorite memories of Orvis was his expertise on flowers. Trekkers were always asking him for their names. I didn't know this one on our first trek so I asked Orvis. "Oh, that's a DYC," he told me. I dutifully told other trekkers it was a DYC. At the end of the Trek , I asked Orvis if the DYC stood for anything. He got a twinkle in his eye and said, "Dam yellow composite."

One of my favorite memories of Orvis was his expertise on flowers. Trekkers were always asking him for their names. I didn’t know this one on our first trek so I asked Orvis. “Oh, that’s a DYC,” he told me. I dutifully told other trekkers it was a DYC. At the end of the Trek , I asked Orvis if the DYC stood for anything. He got a twinkle in his eye and said, “Dam yellow composite.”

I'll conclude today with this tree blaze from the Desolation Wilderness. One of the joys of wilderness travel is finding old, long since forgotten trails and following them. Early sheepherders, ranchers, foresters, mountain men and explorers often marked their trails by cutting into the bark of trees. Many of the blazes would last for years and years, such as this one.

I’ll conclude today with this tree blaze from the Desolation Wilderness. One of the joys of wilderness travel is finding old, long since forgotten trails and following them. Early sheepherders, ranchers, foresters, mountain men and explorers often marked their trails by cutting into the bark of trees. Many of the blazes would last for years and years, such as this one.

NEXT BLOGS

Tomorrow: A review of Three Hundred Cups of Tea and The Toughest Job, a book by two Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, Asifa Kanji and David Drury, on their experience as Volunteers in Mali, West Africa.

Friday/Saturday: The first of my photographic essays on Burning Man in preparation for the 2017 event.

Monday: Back to Boston and the Freedom Trail

Boston: A Cradle of Liberty Where Freedom Still Rings Out

Boston's Old State House has been a symbol of American liberty for over 300 years.

The Declaration of Independence was first read to Bostonians in 1776 from the balcony of the Old State House (shown at night above). John Adam’s bright and articulate wife, Abigail, wrote to her husband that as soon as the Declaration was read… “three cheers rended the air.” She went on to report, “Thus ends the royal authority in this state.”

A fierce desire for independence and freedom has existed in Boston dating back to its very beginning in 1630 when the city was granted a charter to self-govern. Britain’s decision to limit the city’s freedom and tax its citizens starting in the 1760s led to protests that ended in the Revolutionary War and American independence. Beginning in the early 1800s, a strong abolitionist movement opposing slavery grew up in the Boston that would play a key role in leading to the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves. When Peggy and I visited the city in December, we were able to visit a number of sites that reflected Boston’s historical contributions to liberty in America, but we also found ample evidence that the call to freedom still rings out in the city.

My experience in Boston combined with the fact that Donald Trump will be inaugurated as President this week led me to ponder some the most powerful statements that underlie our nation’s commitment to freedom and equality. Here are my favorites:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. —US Declaration of Independence

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. —Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. —The First Amendment of the US Constitution

Slightly different but reflecting America’s original openness to immigration, and I might note, recognizing that we are a nation built by and with immigrants…

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door! —Quote on America’s Statue of Liberty

These are words of wisdom from the folks who “made America great,” and have inspired generations of people in the U.S. and around the world. It is my hope that our new president will take these words to heart  in his efforts to “make America great again.”

 

Neither Peggy nor I had been to Boston before, which is a bit surprising considering the importance of Boston to the nation’s history— and to my own. My Great Grandfather to the umpteenth on my mother’s side arrived there in early 1630s from England, when the city was founded. Ultimately, we are all immigrants.

Boston Commons plaque that commemorates the founding of Boston, Massachusetts in 1630.

This plaque located on Boston Commons commemorates the founding of Boston in 1630. My Great Grandfather to the umpteenth is helping pull the boat in. (Just kidding.)

It was ‘love at first sight’ when we arrived. I had managed to find us an affordable hotel in the center of the city. Most of Revolutionary Boston was within walking distance and I am a big fan of Revolutionary War history. The red brick Freedom Trail was a short 10 minutes away. “Just follow the yellow brick road” was bouncing around in my mind. Instead of skipping off to Oz on yellow bricks with encouragement from Munchkins, however, the red bricks of the Freedom Trail connected us with many historical sites central to America’s struggles for freedom and equality.

Today, I want to share some of the things we saw in Boston that seem particularly relevant to this week in American history. Next Monday, I’ll be more focused on Boston’s Revolutionary history.

The Tremont Temple in Boston, Massachusetts.

I photographed the Tremont Temple because I thought it was a unique building…

Tremont Baptist Church was the first integrated church in America.

Not having a clue that it was a Baptist Church, or that it was the first integrated church in the U.S. It is a fitting photo to commemorate the week of Martin Luther King’s birthday.

I normally wouldn't take a photo of a Chipotle Restaurant, but this one happens to locate in the Old North Bookstore Building where Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was published, which was both a classic of the Abolition Movement and a key factor in leading to the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves.

I normally wouldn’t take a photo of a Chipotle Restaurant, but this one happens to be located in the Old North Bookstore Building where Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was published. The book was both a classic of the Abolition Movement and a key factor in leading to the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves.

Historic Faneuil Hall located in Boston, Massachusetts

Faneuil Hall is located just across the street from the Old State House. It was from this building that the fateful words were uttered, “No Taxation without representation.”  Maybe today’s declaration would be focused on the ultra-wealthy and declare “No representation without paying your fair share of taxes.” (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

We found this Gatling Gun in the military museum on the third floor of Faneuil Hall. While it may seem strange to include it here, it's inventor, Richard Gatling, believed that by employing increasingly deadly weapons that the size of armies could be reduced and that deaths due to combat and disease could be reduced as well. History has taught us a much different lesson, one that should be considered in any discussion of renewing the nuclear arms race.

We found this Gatling Gun in the military museum on the third floor of Faneuil Hall. While it may seem strange to include it here, the inventor, Richard Gatling, believed that by employing increasingly deadly weapons, the size of armies could be reduced and deaths due to combat and disease could be lowered. He also believed it would show us the futility of war. History has taught us a much different lesson. Millions upon millions have died because of the ever-increasing sophistication of weapons. And now our new president is talking about renewing the nuclear arms race…

This plaque on School Street notes where the Latin School stood. Founded on April 23, 1635, it is the oldest public school house in America. People such as Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams and John Hancock attend the school. Public education in America may become a thing of the past under Betsy DeVos, his new Secretary of Education, who will gut public schools in favor of private schools whose motivation is either profit or the promotion of a particular belief system,.

This plaque on School Street notes where the Latin School stood. Founded on April 23, 1635, it was the first public school in America. People such as Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams and John Hancock attended the school. Public education in America may become a thing of the past under Betsy DeVos, Trump’s new Secretary of Education, who’s proposed voucher system will gut public schools in favor of private schools whose primary motivation is profit or promoting a particular belief system. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Peggy and I wondered what the significance of theses rocks were when we were on our walk. The we come on the plaque featured below.

Peggy and I wondered what the significance of theses rocks were we found on our walk. Then we came upon the plaque featured below.

The Boston Peace Garden.

The Boston Peace Garden.

Peggy and I walked over to Newbury Street where the New England Genealogical Society is located. Along the way we came across the very impressive First Church of the Covenant that has long been a leader in promoting social justice.

We walked over to Newbury Street where the New England Genealogical Society is located. Along the way we came across the very impressive First Church of the Covenant that has long been a leader in promoting social justice.

This banner was stretched above its door...

This banner was stretched above its door…

Peggy and I found these T-shirts featured in Boston's Old State House where freedom still rings.

Peggy and I found these T-shirts featured in Boston’s Old State House.We decided that they would serve as an appropriate conclusion to this blog.

NEXT BLOG: Back to the Sierra Trek

 

 

 

Sunset Bay: Up Close and Personal… The North Coast Series

Millions of years ago, Sunset Bay was part of a large delta where layer after layer of silt, sand, and marine deposits were laid down over eons creating sedimentary rocks. Once flat, these layers were tilted upward by plate tectonics as the Pacific plate crashed into and sank under the North America continent.

Millions of years ago, Sunset Bay was part of a large delta where layer after layer of silt, sand, and marine deposits were laid down over eons, creating sedimentary rocks. Once flat, these layers were tilted upward by plate tectonics as the Pacific plate crashed into and sank under the North America continent. Varying layers of hard and soft rock attacked by waves, wind, storms and salt crystals have created beautiful rock sculptures like this one.

 

Landscape photography is known for its grand views. I enjoy those views, always, but I am also intrigued by small things that catch my eye, a leaf perhaps, or a rock. Today I am going to focus more on the ‘up close and personal’ part of Sunset Bay and Shore Acres State Parks on the Oregon coast as well as touch on the geology of the area. This is my Friday photographic essay. Enjoy.

 

Sedimentary rock warn down by waves at Sunset Bay State Park on the Oregon Coast.

A close up of the tilted sedimentary rock shown in the opening photo. The holes in the rock at the right, BTW, are created by growing salt crystals from salt left behind by tides and waves. Algae grows on the sides of the holes and limits the growth of the crystals, thus creating the rounded shapes.

Another view. The white rocks have broken free from on of the tilted layers of sedimentary rock.

I found this view of the weathered sedimentary rocks at Sunset Bay fascinating. The late afternoon sun added the color. The white rocks had broken free from one of the sedimentary layers.

Sedimentary layers of rocks create tracks into Sunset Bay on the Oregon Coast.

Here, the sedimentary layers stretch out along the beach creating a ‘path.’

Coastline of Shore Acres Park on the Oregon Coast near Coos Bay, Oregon.

The next door Shore Acres State Park provides a different perspective on the erosive forces of nature on the tilted sandstone and siltstone rocks.

Erosion at Shore Acres State Park on the Oregon Coast.

A different perspective of the Shore Acres coastline.

Concretion rock found in Sunset Bay on the Oregon Coast near Coos Bay.

This weird rock is known as a concretion. Calcite forms around a small object such as a broken shell. Layer after layer is applied (think pearl in an oyster) until you get a rock like this.

Concretions found on the beach of Sunset Bay on the Oregon Coast.

If one is good, more are better, right?

Ancient spruce roots at Sunset Bay on the Oregon Coast near Coos Bay.

I figured this was just driftwood on the beach until I did some research. Apparently, this is the root system of an ancient spruce. A massive earthquake struck approximately 1200 years ago and sank major portions of the coast, covering local forests with water. The earthquake was the result of plate tectonics where the Pacific Plate is crashing up against and sinking under the North American continent. Known as the Cascadia Subduction Zone along the Oregon coast, this geological region is still active today and is threatening a major earthquake in the not too distant future. Coastal communities are all involved in disaster planning. We are told that if the Applegate Dam above our house breaks, flood waters will crest right about where we live, even though we are high above the river.

Just for fun, I found this ivy leaf adding a splash of green to the beach.

Just for fun, I found this ivy leaf adding a splash of green to the beach.

A rock added a dash of color...

A rock added a dash of yellow…

A rock with a barnacle found on Sunset Bay on the Oregon Coast.

Another yellow rock, which is part of an exposed sedimentary layer, displays a single barnacle.

Barnacles attached to a rock at Sunset Bay State Park on the Oregon Coast.

This one had a whole tribe of barnacles.

Sea anemones found in a tide pool at Sunset Bay on the Oregon Coast near Coos Bay.

Ever since I was a little kid visiting with my grandparents on the Central California coast, I have been unable to resist tide pools. These are sea anemones— an oldster and a youngster. The tentacles carry a toxin that is injected into prey such as a small fish. The prey is then moved to the center and stuffed into its mouth, which also serves as its anus, a fact I am sure you were just dying to learn!

Seaweed on the beach at Sunset Bay on the Oregon Coast.

This seaweed exists in the intertidal zone and is built with dense root system to grab onto rocks and withstand crashing waves. Recent storm had succeeded in breaking this one free. Tracks show that a seagull has stopped by to check it out. I also liked the reflection captured by water that barely covers the sand.

Another reflection shot, which includes seagulls.

Another reflection shot, which includes seagulls.

Seagull at Sunset Bay on the Oregon Coast near Coos Bay.

And a seagull up close with a touch of attitude that says feed me! Check out the knobby knees.

Dead tree with impressing root system on Sunset Bay near Coos Bay on the Oregon Coast.

Peggy has roots. This magnificent tree has been on the beach for a while.

Downed tree with roots reaching skyward on the beach at Sunset Bay State Park.

Another view.

Natural root sculpture food at Shore Acres State Park on the Oregon Coast.

I’ll use this fantastic creature that lives next door in Shore Acres State Park to wrap up today’s photo essay blog. I’ve used this jumble of roots in a previous blog.

Monday’s Blog: Revolutionary Boston and its message for today. Peggy and I were just there and walked the Revolutionary Trail. “Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.” —Longfellow

Wednesday’s Blog: The Sierra Trek Part 3— Meet the incredible cast of characters that sign up to go; travel with Steve and me as we preview the route and Steve pees around the camp to scare away bears.

Friday’s Blog: It’s time to start thinking about Burning Man! Sign up is in February. For the next few weeks, I’ll be digging into my archive of thousands of Burning Man photos taken over a ten-year period for my Friday photograph essays.

My apologies to all of my blog friends for my slowness in responding to comments and tardiness in reading blogs over the past month. I will catch up. After a month of travel and visiting family (including five grandsons) on the East Coast, Peggy and I returned to some of the same weather that many of you have been facing. Our property was buried under two feet of snow. As a result, much of my time has been spent shoveling snow off of driveways and roofs, dealing with power outages and frozen pipes, and trying to persuade a roaring creek that it does not want to run down our driveway. Some fun! We are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, however. Or at least the dirt under the snow.

Curt

 

 

What Do Burning Down a Bank and the Sierra Trek Have in Common? … The Sierra Trek: Part 2

Waterfall and pool on Five Lakes Creek in the Granite Chief Wilderness area behind Squaw Valley, California.

The Granite Chief Wilderness behind Squaw Valley, home of the 1960 Winter Olympics, is an area of rugged terrain and natural beauty. This pool on Five Lakes Creek was an open invitation for a dip on a hot summer day. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

 

The vision part of being a visionary is always the easy part, as any visionary will tell you. It is the execution of the idea that separates the mouse from the moose. In my first blog on the Sierra Trek, I told how Steve Crowle and I had come up with the crazy idea of raising money for the non-profit I was executive director of by running a 9-day, 100-mile backpack trip in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. I had six weeks to plan and run the event. It would have been a major undertaking even if I had six months!

A note on photos: I didn’t take any pictures during the first Sierra Trek. It was before I became interested in photography, plus I had my hands full shepherding 63 people across the mountains— as you will learn. The photos in this blog and in the rest of the series were taken on later Treks and on personal trips in the Sierra’s and other California mountain ranges where we trekked. They will give you an idea of why I fell in love with backpacking and the Sierras. 

 

My first challenge on the trek was selling it to Board of Directors. Running a backpack trip as a fundraiser was a huge leap from sending out Christmas seals. At 29, I was close to the youngest Lung Association Executive Director in the nation in 1974 and I had already ruffled some feathers. A research doctor from UC Davis was foaming at the mouth because I wanted our organization to focus on prevention programs as opposed to medical research. What would he think of me running off to the woods on a backpack trip?

Leading a group of people through rugged terrain for long distances was a bit more scary than sending out Christmas Seals. Here we are looking south from the Granite Chief Wilderness to the Desolation Wilderness, a route we followed several times on the Sierra Trek.

Leading a group of people through rugged terrain for long distances was a bit more scary than sending out Christmas Seals. Here we are looking south from the Granite Chief Wilderness to the Desolation Wilderness, a route we followed several times on the Sierra Trek. Snow would often be a challenge on our adventures.

“You want to do what?” with a decided emphasis on the first and fifth words is the best way I can describe the Board’s reaction to my proposal. It was easy to translate: “Why would a 29-year-old executive director with less than a year of experience under his belt, want to risk his career on such a harebrained idea?”

I echoed wild Steve, “Why not?”

Actually I had a great Board. Once the members were convinced that this was something I really, really wanted to do, their final response was “OK, go for it!” I called Steve immediately. I had a wide range of responsibilities ranging from administration to program to fundraising. I would have a limited amount of time to devote to the project and I didn’t know anyone else who was crazy enough to take on the challenge.

I had originally talked Steve into replacing me as Executive Director of Sacramento’s Ecology Information Center with a sales pitch that included, “Look, I have this great job where you work 60 hour weeks, have a Board that likes to scream at each other, and has a starting salary of $200 per month. Are you interested?” Minus a screaming Board of Directors, organizing the Trek wouldn’t be all that different.

Steve had a bright, curious mind and was knowledgeable on environmental issues. He also seemed to have unlimited energy and was built like a bear. It had served his well as Executive Director of EIC. In addition to overseeing the Center’s ongoing projects, he had immediately set out to develop a community garden downtown. Initially known as the terra firma Garden and later as the Ron Mandela Garden, it would provide inner city residents with a touch of nature for over 30 years— all the way until the State of California decided to grow buildings on the site.

The downside about Steve was that he existed on the edge. I later learned that one of his friends who he recruited to volunteer on the Trek frequently flew to Columbia and returned with his cargo holds filled with pot. Steve was a ‘person of interest’ to the FBI.

A year after the Trek, Steve called me and told me that the FBI had showed up on his doorstep. My immediate thought was that they had tied Steve to the Colombia operation or that some of the terra firma/Mandela gardeners were growing marijuana. Steve’s concern was that his radical youth was catching up with him. He had been a little too close to the fire when the Bank of America had been burned down in Santa Barbara in 1970 as a protest against the Vietnam War. “And what were you doing with those matches?” Mr. Crowle. (Steve told me the Santa Barbara story a few years ago before he passed away.)

Actually, the FBI had bigger fish to fry. Apparently one of his gardeners had gone from farming her plot to plotting an assassination. Young Lynette Fromme grew up in Southern California where she was a star performer in a children’s dance group, performing at such venues as the Lawrence Welk Show and the Whitehouse.

At 19, a strong disagreement with her dad sent her scurrying off to Venice Beach where she found comfort from an older man, Charles Manson. She soon found herself one of Manson’s clan, taking care of an aging George Spahn at his ranch where the ‘family’ hung out. It was Spahn who gave Lynette her nickname “Squeaky,” because, as legend has it, she squeaked each time he tried to grope her.

Squeaky missed out on the murderous rampage the family undertook in 1969 killing Sharon Tate among others, but she remained intensely loyal to Charles, defending him to the press and anyone else who would listen. After Manson’s conviction and sentence to a lifetime in prison, she moved to Stockton where two of the people she was living with, James and Lauren Willett, mysteriously ended up dead.

Abandoning Stockton, Squeaky moved to Sacramento and rented an apartment with another Manson groupie, Sandra Good. The two of them adopted a new life style and persona as ‘nuns’ in Manson’s latest crusade, saving the earth. Manson even gave them new names with Squeaky becoming ‘Red’ and Sandra becoming ‘Blue.’ It was with her new name, persona, and purpose that Squeaky took up gardening at the Mandela Garden. Steve knew her, of course (she liked his intense eyes), but knew nothing about her background.

It was with her new purpose of ‘saving the earth’ that she left her apartment on the fateful morning of September 5, 1975 and strolled over to Capitol Park where she got within a few steps of the visiting President Gerald Ford before pointing her Colt 45 at him, creating immediate pandemonium. She later claimed she was “just trying to get the President’s attention.” She did. Three months later she found herself convicted of an attempted assassination and in prison.

As for Steve, he informed the FBI that he didn’t have a clue as to who Fromme was or what she was up to other than being a gardener. Like Pangloss, he went back to cultivating his garden.

But all of this was in the future. My phone call to Steve went something like the following:

“How would you like to go backpacking and get paid for it?” I asked.

“Give me a hard question,” Steve responded.

“Are you willing to work for two dollars an hour?” I casually threw in as fine print.

“That,” he replied, “is the question.”

I went on to explain that while the Board members had approved of the concept, they weren’t particularly enthusiastic about spending large sums of money to see if it worked. I could just barely squeeze out the minimum wage of the day for two months to see if we could pull it off. Steve, after ample groaning, allowed that it would supplement what he was earning at the Center and took the job.

My next responsibility was to come up with a name. While thinking of backpacking 100 miles in nine days the word trek popped in to my mind. So I looked it up in the dictionary. “A long, arduous journey” was the definition. That seemed appropriate, and since we were doing our long, arduous journey through the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, I decided to call it the Sierra Trek.

Where to go posed a more serious challenge. I came up with three criteria: one, it had to be 100 miles long; two, it needed be in our territory; and three, the trail should be easy to follow. The hundred miles was a given, and ‘being in our territory’ seemed feasible since several of ALASET’s (the American Lung Association of Sacramento-Emigrant Trails) nine counties encompassed a significant portion of the Northern Sierra.

The clinker in our selection process was the ‘easy to follow.’ I had nightmares of having Sierra Trekkers lost all over the mountains with Steve and me scrambling to find them. We’d be lucky if we could avoid becoming lost. Serendipity stepped in and helped out. I was reading the Sacramento Bee when I came across our solution.

The horse people were planning their annual 100-mile horse race across the Sierra Nevada, the Tevis Cup Race. The event started in Squaw Valley and ended in Auburn. Horses had to follow substantial trails, I reasoned. Squaw Valley had been the sight of the 1960 Winter Olympics and would provide an internationally known resort to kick off our event.

A trail sign for the Tevis Cup Trail behind Squaw Valley, California.

A trail sign marking the Tevis Cup horse race. The same route is now used for a 100-mile ultra marathon run across the mountains.

Auburn was one of the main foothill communities in the Association’s territory and would make an ideal ending place. The trail had the added advantage of being an early trail used by pioneers. We could use the historical angle and tie in with our name. My major concern was following a trail filled with horse poop.

Steve made contact with the woman in Auburn who was organizing the Tevis Cup Race. “Yes, the trail is easy to follow.” They marked it with yellow ribbons and the ribbons would still be up for our Trek. As for my concern about horse manure, “There should be plenty of time between the race and your trek for the manure to dry out.”

“Fine,” I said to Steve when he reported back, “our Trekkers will be shuffling down trails in dry horse shit up to there ankles.” On the other hand, I thought, we can tell them to follow the horse droppings if the ribbons run out. The important thing was we had a route and could begin publicizing the event. Steve and I agreed to preview the route in advance of the Trek to pin down campsites and reduce the possibility of nasty surprises.

So now, we had a route and a name. It was time to recruit participants, obtain food, and preview the route— all of which I will include in my next blog, where I will also learn a very valuable lesson from a 70-year old.

The Granite Chief Wilderness in the Sierra Nevada Mountains north of Lake Tahoe.

One of my favorite Granite Chief Wilderness views. Lake Tahoe, Squaw Valley, and Alpine Meadows are on the other side of the mountain. The flowers are called Mule Ears. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Another field of mule ears in Granite Chief.

Another field of mule ears in Granite Chief. The trail wound its way through here.

A close up of the Mule Ears blooming. There are few places in the Sierra's that can match the display of flowers in the Granite Chief Wilderness,

A close up of the Mule Ears blooming. There are few places in the Sierra’s that can match the display of flowers in the Granite Chief Wilderness.

Washington Lilies found in the Granite Chief Wilderness area behind Squaw Valley.

These Washington Lilies are found on the trail as it makes its way through the Granite Chief Wilderness down toward Five Lakes Creek.

Mariposa Lilies found in dry areas behind Squaw Valley.

As are these Mariposa Lilies…

And Tiger Lilies.

Tiger Lilies.

Indian Paint Brush found in Granite Chief Wilderness behind Squaw Valley, California.

And Indian Paint Brush.

Lichens add color along the trail as well.

Lichens add color along the trail as well.

Snag found in the Granite Chief Wilderness north west of Lake Tahoe, California.

This old snag provided a different type of photo-op…

Lodge Pole Pines found in the Granite Chief Wilderness of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

As did these weathered Lodge Pole Pines.

Little Needle Lake in the Granite Chief Wilderness.

Little Needle Lake is a short three-mile hike from the top of Squaw Valley. I enjoyed the reflection here. At night there is an amazing chorus of frogs. I’ve often camped beside the lake.

Five Lakes Creek in the Granite Chief Wilderness area behind Alpine Meadows ski area.

Five Lakes Creek flows along quietly here and provides and invitation to cool off in the middle of summer. Earlier it can be roaring with snow melt and icy water.

Peggy provides an example of how the creek should be enjoyed on a hot August afternoon.

Peggy provides an example of how the creek should be enjoyed on a hot August afternoon.

Canny on Five Lakes Creek near Diamond Crossing in the Granite Chief Wilderness.

The final photo of the day. Five Lakes Creek drops into a canyon a few miles below where Peggy enjoyed her cooling off. The top photo on this post provide a closeup. I often camped Treks at Diamond Crossing near here. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

 

 

Sunset Bay: A Hidden Treasure on the Oregon Coast… The North Coast Series

The setting sun illuminates the cliffs surrounding Sunset Bay, giving support to its name.

The setting sun lights up the cliffs surrounding Sunset Bay, providing support for the bay’s name.

The Oregon Coast is world-renowned for its combination of hidden coves, towering cliffs and crashing waves. Peggy and I are fortunate to live only a couple of hours away from this beauty and have resolved to spend much more time exploring the coastline in 2017. It should be one resolution that is easy to keep.

The Oregon Coast is noted for its crashing waves such as these at Sunset Bay near Coos bay, Oregon.

Towering Pacific Ocean waves crash on rocks just outside of Sunset Bay.

I called and made reservations to stay at Sunset Bay State Park on the Oregon Coast in November. Normally I wouldn’t bother with reservations during late fall, but the Christmas light show at nearby Shore Acres Park attracts up to 50,000 people annually. Odds were that a number of them would be staying at the campground.

I needn’t have worried. The park was under two feet of water when I called. A high tide had joined forces with a flooding stream. The park reservation company in California had happily collected its seven-dollar reservation fee and failed to fill us in on the little detail that we might need a boat to get to our campsite.

Peggy and I already had that experience. We had camped in our small RV at a private campground near Mendocino a few years ago and woke up to discover a seagull floating by our window. Water was lapping at our doorstep. We had departed quicker than a jack rabbit on steroids, not even stopping to pay our campground fee. They probably would have charged extra for the seagull. Besides, a warning in the night that the area was flooding would have been appreciated.

Fortunately we lucked out at Sunset Bay. We weren’t even aware of the flood until we arrived and the water had already receded. Apparently we had missed the flood by a day and a gang of prisoners had swept through the campground and cleaned up the debris. Other than the campground host, we pretty much had the area to ourselves.

Sunset Bay is a hidden jewel, snuggled in along the coast near Coos Bay. It is part of a 6000-feet thick geological formation known as the Coaledo Formation after the coal deposits found in the area. For a while, starting in the 1850s, coal mining was a major industry in the area. By 1904 there were some 40 active mines. The coal was used primarily for running steam locomotives. The appearance of diesel engines in the 1920s had reduced the demand for the Coos Bay coal, however, and the last coal mine was shut down in 1940.

Coal fired steam locomotives are mainly a footnote in history now, but Peggy and I ended up on a train being pulled by one just before Christmas. Our son Tony and his wife Cammie had purchased tickets for the family to travel on the Polar Express out of Essex, Connecticut. We arrived just about dark and the locomotive was warming up to leave. Manny Mistletoe entertained us on our way to the ‘North Pole’ where Mr. and Mrs. Clause greeted us and entertained our grandsons who were appropriately decked out in their pajamas. Hot chocolate was served.

Steam train rides are featured throughout the year in Essex, Connecticut.

The ‘Polar Express’ locomotive of Essex, Connecticut prepares to leave the station on its journey to the ‘North Pole.’

The sedimentary rocks of the Coaledo Formation, laid down in layers over millions of years, have been tilted steeply upward by the crashing Pacific and North American tectonic plates. Varying levels of hardness found among the sedimentary rocks have allowed for different levels of erosion and account for the interesting land formations found at Sunset Bay. I am going to do two posts on our visit. Today’s photos are focused on looking out toward the ocean. On Friday I will do a photographic essay on the fun things we found along the shoreline. (Wednesday’s blog returns to the Sierra Trek.)

Low tide at Sunset Bay on the Oregon Coast near Coos Bay.

Looking out toward the Pacific Ocean at low tide from the beach at Sunset Bay.

Seagulls and sunset at Sunset Bay near Coos Bay on the Oregon Coast.

Seagulls take advantage of the low tide to search for dinner.

A November sunset at Sunset Bay.

Shooting toward the sun provided this view. The sun is more centered on the bay during the summer months.

Tide pools at Sunset Bay in Oregon near Coos bay lit up by the sun at sunset.

I also liked the ‘black and white’ feel the sunset provided with these tide pools.

Early morning at Sunset Bay on the Oregon Coast near Coos Bay, Oregon.

Early morning light the next day and high tide provided a totally different scene at Sunset Bay.

Sun lights up small waves at Sunset Bay on the Oregon Coast near Coos Bay.

I liked the way the sun lit up these wavelets.

Backlit wave crashes over rock at Sunset bay near Coos Bay, Oregon.

And how it lit this wave as it crashed over a rock just outside of the Bay.

Waves crashing over rocks outside of Sunset Bay near Coos Bay, Oregon.

And a final view of the restless Pacific Ocean outside of Sunset Bay.

WEDNESDAY’S  BLOG: Part 2 of the Sierra Trek, a nine-day hundred mile backpack trip across the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.

FRIDAY’S BLOG: The wrap up on Sunset Bay… a photographic essay.

 

The Glass Forge of Grants Pass… From the Sublime to the Wacky

Two bowls from the Glass Forge of Grants Pass Oregon.

The Glass Forge of Grants Pass creates a wide range of glass art ranging from the sublime to the wacky. I loved the tree like pattern in the left bowl.

Red lipped blue fish produced at the Glass Forge in Grants Pass, Oregon.

How can you not fall for a blue fish with red lips. While the artists of the Glass Forge produce much traditional glass art, they also have a wonderful sense of humor.

It’s Friday, so this is my day to produce a photographic essay for my blog. My choice for today is the Glass Forge in Grants Pass, Oregon. Peggy and I visited the studio on one of our Wednesday Date Days in November. (We’ve been having Wednesday Date Days for 27 years!) When we arrived the staff was working on glass art for the Lodge at Yosemite.

The Glass Forge of Grants Pass, Oregon was founded by Lee Wassink, shown above creating a vase.

One of the neat things about the Glass Forge is that you are encouraged to watch the artists at work. In this photo, Lee Wassink, founder of the Glass Forge, demonstrates the creation of a vase.

Groups and individuals have an opportunity to attend a workshop and create simple glass work of their own, such as these Christmas ornament.

Groups and individuals have an opportunity to attend a workshop and create simple glass work of their own, such as these Christmas ornaments.

Vase found at the Glass Forge in Grants Pass, Oregon.

The studio provides an opportunity to peruse the wide variety of glass art available, such as this vase. As I posted this photo I notice a slight reflection of myself, a selfie.

Looking down into a vase at the Glass Forge Studio in Grants Pass Oregon.

I always like looking down into glass art for a different perspective, as in this vase…

Looking at the patterns inside a glass bowl at the Glass Forge in Grants Pass, Oregon.

And this bowl. I am amazed at the patterns, variety and beauty created.

Humorous mugs created by the artists working at the Glass Forge in Grants Pass, Oregon.

I really like weird and wacky. These mugs certainly qualify!

Glass fish with character at Glass Forge in Grants Pass, Oregon.

And here’s another fish.

Variety of bowls displayed at the Glass Forge in Grant's Pass, Oregon.

This collection of bowls demonstrated the variety available.

A tall, graceful vase at the Glass Forge in Grants Pass, Oregon.

One of several tall, graceful vases.

Glass paperweights available for purchase at the Glass Forge in Grants Pass Oregon.

Someday, I am going to return to the Glass Forge to find out how these paper weights are created.

We were able to watch a vase being made. The furnaces used to melting the glass are over 2000 degrees F (1100 degrees C).

We were able to watch a vase being made. The furnaces used to melt the glass are over 2000 degrees F (1100 degrees C).

Furnaces for heating glass at Glass Forge in Grants Pass, Oregon.

A bubble is blown into the glass. Layers are added by returning to the furnace for more glass. The larger the piece, the more returns.

Bins that hold colored glass to add color to glass art created at the Glass Forge in Grants Pass, Oregon.

These bins hold colored glass that will be added to the various pieces.

The following series of photos follow the artists as they work together to finish a vase:

Color has been added to a vase at the Glass Forge in Grants Pass, Oregon.

Check out the gorgeous color!

Top is added to vase at Glass Forge in Grants Pass, Oregon.

A bottom is added.

Shaping a top on a vase at the Glass Forge in Grants Pass, Oregon.

And shaped.

A close to finished vase at the Glass Forge, Grants Pass, Oregon.

The finished product.

If you are driving up or down Interstate 5 in Southern Oregon or live in the area, I highly recommend stopping off at the Glass Forge in Grants Pass.

If you are driving up or down Interstate 5 in Southern Oregon or live in the area, I highly recommend stopping off at the Glass Forge in Grants Pass.

Glass Genie created at the Glass Forge in Grants Pass, Oregon.

I’ll conclude my Friday photographic essay today with this marvelous glass genie.

MONDAY’S BLOG: We will return to the Oregon Coast and visit the scenic Sunset Bay.

WEDNESDAY’S BLOG: Part 2 of my Sierra Trek series. I have to persuade a reluctant Board of Directors (“You want to do what?”), decide on a name, hire Steve, and determine our route.

FRIDAY’s BLOG: California mountain wildflowers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Far Out Excuse for Escaping to the Woods… The Sierra Trek Series: Part 1

The Black Buttes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains are lit up by the evening sun.

Inspired by the beauty of the Five Lakes Basin found north of Interstate 80 in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, I started a lifetime of backpacking in 1969.

 

At Five Lakes Basin’s/ Biggest little lake /after all day scrambling on the peaks/ a naked bug /with a white body and brown hair/ dives in the water/ Splash! — Gary Snyder

As I think about backpacking 500 miles this summer, my mind wanders back in time to the first major backpacking trip I ever made: a nine-day, 100 mile trek across the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. The trip in itself would have been a bit crazy considering my lack of experience. But I ended up leading 60 people aged 11 to 70, most with less experience than I had. It was a new definition of insanity. I was lucky the participants didn’t leave me hanging in a tree somewhere along the trail. It came close.

It’s a good story, one that I’ve been planning to tell for a long time. My Wednesday blog will be devoted to it over the next couple of months. So grab whatever you like to drink, sit back, and join me on the first Sierra Trek.

 

During the early summer of 1974 my life took a dramatic shift. My first wife Jo Ann, friend Steve Crowle, and I used a long summer weekend to go backpacking into one of my all-time favorite backcountry destinations, the Five Lakes Basin north of Interstate 80 in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It’s a beautiful area with towering granite cliffs and jewel-like lakes that had been carved out by glaciers some 20,000 years ago. It’s also a favorite area of the Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Gary Snyder, whose haiku poem on the area is featured at the top of this post.

Gary Snyders Haiku poem "Old Pond" was based on the Five Lakes Basin.

The Black Buttes looming above the Five Lakes are where the poet Gary Snyder went ‘scrambling.’

My first backpacking trip ever had taken me into the region in 1969 and I had returned again and again, sometime with Jo, sometimes with friends, and occasionally by myself. On one of the latter trips, I had taken my Basset Hound Socrates and camped out on a small lake that is somewhat hidden from the other lakes. I’ve blogged about the Socrates trip. Here’s what I wrote:

One of the five Lakes in the Five Lakes Basin north of Interstate 80 in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

This is the lake where Socrates and I camped and where the Sierra Trek was born. This photo also shows how granite dominates the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Sharing the lake with Soc was close to being totally alone. His concept of a quality wilderness experience was disappearing into the woods and seeing how many holes he could dig. He never seemed to catch anything, so I am not sure of his motivation. I’d get up in the morning and cover his handiwork. I almost felt like I needed to file an environmental impact report. He always limped home on sore feet.

On this particular journey, I packed the Carlos Castaneda book that features things that go bump in the night. Don Juan takes Carlos out into the middle of the Sonoran Desert on a pitch-black night and abandons him. Not long afterwards, the monsters come hunting. It wasn’t the best book for a solo night in the woods. As I read into the evening, I found myself paying more attention than usual to wilderness sounds.

I ingested a little medicinal herb to lighten things up. It was the 70s, after all. Bad idea; instant paranoia set in. Soon I could hear the wind stalking me through the treetops. An old snag turned into a ghoul. Off in the distance something big and ugly was digging and snorting. Socrates, I hoped.

This tree turned into the ghoul as the sun set and night approached.

This Jeffrey Pine turned into the ghoul as the sun set and night approached.

Ghost tree in the Five Lakes Basin of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

A close up of the dead ghoul tree.

“Here Soc,” I called. “Come here boy.”

The digging continued and grew more desperate.

“Come here!” I yelled. Still no response but now I could hear large claws scratching at granite.

“Does someone want a Milk Bone?” I added in a quiet, conversational voice.

The digging stopped. ‘Someone’ started coming through the brush toward me. Whatever it was, it was apparently interested in Milk Bones. Soc’s head, long body and wagging tail made their way into the firelight. He might love digging, but he loved food more. There was the reason why our low-slung pooch weighed 70 pounds.

“Good boy,” I said while digging out a Milk Bone. I knew I was buying companionship but it seemed like a good idea on this strange, dark night. Meanwhile, Socrates had started to drool in expectation. Soon he was shaking his head and shooting dog slobber off in a dozen directions. I ducked to avoid being slimed.

Unfortunately, my supply of Milk Bones was limited. I tied Soc up to assure his faithfulness. It was time for bed. I put the fire out and was greeted by a moonless, dark night. But hey, who needed the moon when I had my faithful companion and a million stars. I invited Socrates to snuggle up on my sleeping bag and laid my head down on the coat I was using for a pillow.

CRUNCH, CRUNCH, CRUNCH!

“Damn! What’s that?” I sat up straight and grabbed for my flashlight. Socrates joined in by barking at my sleeping bag.

“No, Soc, out there,” I urged and pointed the flashlight off into the woods. Soc glanced up at me with a curious ‘what are you talking about’ look and started barking at my pillow.

“Look Socrates,” I pleaded, “just pretend there is a garbage man out in the woods.”

Soc had never met a garbage man he could resist barking at and I wanted his teeth pointed in the right direction.  What Soc did with my advice was make three dog circles and plop down on my bag. I gave up and reluctantly laid my head back down on my pillow.

CRUNCH, CRUNCH, CRUNCH!

I sat straight up again. Soc growled at me for disturbing his rest and started barking at my sleeping bag again.

“Fine watch dog you are,” I growled right back at him while straining my ears for the smallest of sounds. When Soc shut up, I was rewarded with a faint ‘crunch, crunch, crunch.’ It was coming from under the sleeping bag. I had a proverbial monster under my bed! Gradually it dawned on me that what I was hearing was a gopher tunneling his way through the ground, innocently on his way to some succulent root. I put my head down on my pillow. Sure enough, the ‘crunch’ became a ‘CRUNCH.’

The ground and the mystic weed were magnifying the sound. Soc had been right all along. I was lucky that he only barked at my sleeping bag and hadn’t started digging.

Don Juan would have appreciated how I had been tricked. Reality isn’t always what it seems.

Jo Ann, Steve and I had ended up camping on the same lake. Steve had replaced me as Executive Director of Sacramento’s Ecology Information Center when I had become Assistant Director of the American Lung Association of Sacramento. In addition to his boundless energy and intelligence, he was more than a little on the wild side. He had hobbies like jumping off high bridges into shallow water and experimenting with various mind-altering drugs. But mainly he loved life and had a vast appetite for new experiences.

One such experience was backpacking. We were lazing around our campfire on the last night bemoaning the fact that we had to return to civilization and jobs the next day.

“God, wouldn’t it be great if we could make money doing this,” Steve sighed.

Suddenly my mind took one of its intuitive leaps where the lights come on, the bells go off and four and twenty blackbirds sing the Hallelujah Chorus.

“We can, Steve!” I managed to get out as my thoughts played hopscotch. “Look, as Executive Director one of my main responsibilities is fund-raising.” (That spring, I had become Executive Director of the Lung Association.)

I was painfully aware my money-raising responsibilities. TB/Lung Associations had spent 70 happy years sending out Christmas Seals and waiting for the money to roll in. While the Golden Goose wasn’t dead, it was ailing. We had conquered TB and selling lungs wasn’t nearly as easy. Easter Seals had kids, the Heart Association the most appealing organ in the body, and the Cancer Society the scariest word in the dictionary. We had emphysema, bronchitis, asthma, the remnants of TB and diseases with unpronounceable names such as coccidioidomycosis. Adding injury to insult, dozens of non-profit organizations had added seals to their fund-raising arsenals. Competition for bucks to do-good was tough and the well was running dry.

“What if,” I pondered out loud, “we ran a backpack trip through the mountains as a type of multi-day walk-a-thon with people raising money for each mile they hiked?” I liked walk-a-thons. They involved people in healthy activities as well as raising money. They gave something back to the participants.

Steve’s attention jumped from low watt to high intensity. “When? Where? For how many miles and days? How can I be involved?” The questions tumbled out.

“I don’t know, I don’t know and I don’t know,” I responded, laughing at his enthusiasm although mine was hardly less. “But,” I added, throwing out some crazy figures, “what if we made it for nine days and 100 miles?”

That quieted us down. Neither of us had ever backpacked for nine days straight, much less 100 miles. A long trip for me had been six days and 30 miles. I threw out the nine days because it included a full week with both weekends and the 100 miles because it sounded impressive.

“Why not,” Steve had finally said with more than a little awe in his voice as a new national fund-raising program was born. It was a program that would occupy much of my time over the next 30 years, involve thousands of people, and raise substantial funds for the American Lung Association. But all of that was in the future; Steve and I just wanted an excuse to go backpacking.

Here are a few photos from the Five Lakes Basin:

Beautiful flowers such as this Mariposa Lilly...

In the summer, the Basin is filled with beautiful flowers such as this Mariposa Lilly…

Penstemon...

Penstemon…

And a butter cup.

And Cinquefoil.

Snag in the Five Lakes Basin .

Both live and dead trees decorate the landscape.

It was in the Five Lakes Basin

This impressive stump was located about 50 yards from camp.

In addition to their beauty, the lakes make great swimming holes and provide opportunities to add trout to dinner.

In addition to their beauty, the lakes make great swimming holes and provide opportunities to add trout to dinner. This was a view from my campsite.

Fun lakes and interesting reflections...

They are also good for reflection shots!

And interesting reflections.

This reflection of this tree was so clear it could have been real.

This reflection of this Lodgepole Pine was so clear it could have been real.

The sunset on the Black Buttes and, finally...

Another sunset photo of the Black Buttes and, finally…

A dramatic sunset.

A dramatic sunset.

FRIDAY’S BLOG: A photographic essay on the Glass Forge in Grants Pass, Oregon and its beautiful glass creations.

MONDAY’S BLOG: We will return to the Oregon Coast and visit the scenic Sunset Bay.

WEDNESDAY’S BLOG: Part 2 of my Sierra Trek series. I have to persuade a reluctant Board of Directors (“You want to do what?”), decide on a name, hire Steve, and determine our route.

Redwoods, the Stone Lagoon, and the Smith River along California’s Highway 101

Stone Lagoon on the north coast of California is part of the largest lagoon system in North America.

The Stone Lagoon along Highway 101 on the North Coast of California provides a unique environment that supports a wide diversity of life. The distant barrier beach separates the lagoon from the Pacific Ocean. Winter storms breach the barrier and allow sea water into the lagoon.

Back before Peggy and I flew east to be with our kids and grandkids to celebrate the holidays, we made a brief trip up the North Coast of California. I’ve already posted three blogs on the trip: one on Mendocino, one on the coast, and one on Roosevelt Elk. Today I will wrap up our journey starting at Stone Lagoon State Park on Highway 101 north of Eureka and working our way up to Highway 199 out of Crescent City.

The North Coast of California is one of my very special places. I’ve returned there again and again. From rugged coastlines, to majestic redwoods, to picturesque towns, and interesting history, the region is both beautiful and magical.

Highway 101 traces its history back to 1769 when the Spanish explorer Juan Gaspar de Portola followed what would eventually become El Camino Real (The King’s Highway) and connected some 21 Catholic missions from San Diego to the Bay Area. North of San Francisco, the road becomes known as the Redwood Highway as it travels through grove after grove of redwoods.

Giant redwood tree at Redwoods National Park. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Towering Redwoods give the Redwood Highway its name.

Massive root systems that can extend out 100-feet from the tree provide hundreds of gallons of water per day to a giant redwood.

Massive root systems that can extend out 100-feet from the tree provide hundreds of gallons of water per day to a giant redwood. Root width rather than depth provides the tree with stability.

Redwood roots on display along California's Highway 101.

I find the twisted roots quite beautiful.

Salmon carved from redwood along Highway 101 on California's North Coast.

A number of places along Highway 101 sell carved redwood featuring everything from bears to this salmon.

Highway 101 follows a path inland through various river valleys until it reaches Eureka and then it follows the ocean to the border. Occasional views of the Pacific are provided along the way and several county, state and national parks provide opportunities for camping and exploration.

Waves come ashore along California's Highway 101.

Highway 101, seen on the right side of the photo, parallels the Pacific Ocean north of Eureka, California providing occasional views of the Pacific Ocean.

Looking out toward the Pacific from the same location on Highway 101.

Looking out toward the Pacific from the same location on Highway 101. The point has character.

Sea foam created by a storm along the Pacific Coast.

While the skies were blue for our drive up the coast, a storm had chopped up the water the night before, creating sea foam.

Sea foam beat into whip cream type consistency along Highway 101 on the North Coast of California.

The result was this whip cream like sea-foam I included in an earlier blog.

Stone Lagoon, which is part of the largest lagoon system in North America, is one of the views along Highway 101. Separated from the Pacific Ocean by a barrier beach, the waters of the lagoon are neither fresh nor salt. Fed by fresh water for most of the year, winter storms fill the lagoon with water until it breaches the beach barrier, allowing ocean water to flow in and establish a unique environment that supports a great diversity of life. When Peggy and I arrived, Stone Lagoon was the picture of tranquility with calm waters reflecting the surrounding hills and trees.

Stone Lagoon State Park on Highway 101.

The calm water reflected trees and hills surrounding Stone Lagoon.

Reflection shot on Stone Lagoon ion Highway 101 ion the Northern California coast.

A close up.

In Crescent City, Peggy and I picked up Highway 199 and followed the Smith River up and away from the ocean on our way into Southern Oregon.

The Smith River as seen from Highway 199, the Redwood Highway , in Northern California.

The Smith River crosses Highway 101 north of Crescent City and is the largest free-flowing river in California that hasn’t been damned.

Another view of the Smith River flowing along Highway 199 in Northern California.

Another view of the Smith River flowing along Highway 199 in Northern California.

Rapids along the Smith River next to Highway 199, (the Redwood Highway) in Northern California.

A final photo of the Smith River.

NEXT BLOG: A somewhat crazy 100 mile backpacking adventure across the Sierra Nevada Mountains with 60 people aged 11 to 70. Part 1